Letters: Princeton University Eating Club Incident Raises Questions about Coordination with Local Police

To the Editor:

The recent report by Planet Princeton concerning alleged criminal conduct on October 10 at Tiger Inn, a Princeton University social club, should concern Princeton residents generally, entirely apart from the merits of the allegations.

The allegations are: a sex act occurred on the dance floor in the Club, the act was photographed, and the photograph was circulated via email to Club members by a club officer. If true, the sex act and the email publication could be a violation of New Jersey criminal law.

Of broader interest to Princeton residents is the question: what coordination existed between the University and local police in investigating the matter? The answer to that question depends on who knew what, when did they know it, and what did they do with their knowledge?

Based on early reports, University administrators were notified of the event by University-affiliated persons who found the email publication of the photograph objectionable. The University apparently took no action, claiming that the Club was not in its jurisdiction because the Club is a private, off-campus institution.

Also according to early reports, when Planet Princeton inquired of local police three weeks after the event concerning their knowledge of the matter, the police indicated they had not received any complaint and therefore knew nothing of the matter.

This apparent chronology of events raises the question: when an alleged criminal act comes to the attention of the University, is it not under an obligation to notify local law enforcement?

One would think that the answer to that question is “yes”. After all, the University and local police recently entered into a memorandum of understanding concerning better coordination. Is coordination really happening?

And just this week the University was called to account by a federal investigation concerning its lack of compliance with the U.S. Department of Justice for failure to appropriately deal with civil rights violations due to sex discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault/violence. What does the incident of October 10 say about the University’s efforts to address the federal government’s concerns?

The University and the municipality should make public who knew what, and when, and how the two institutions can assure local residents that local law enforcement agencies in fact are cooperating for the protection of the larger communities –- municipal, state and federal.

Roger Martindell

Mr. Martindell is a former Princeton Borough Councilman


  1. Sam, don’t confuse civil and criminal contexts here. A “complaint” is not required for police to investigate a crime. A “complaint” is filed in civil action to trigger the civil case, but with evidence of a probable commission of a crime, the law enforcement will lawfully investigate to determine if a crime was committed (if law enforcement does not investigate potential crimes, they are not doing their job). The University has never denied that an email of a sex act was distributed, and in fact the University and Tiger Inn spokespeople have acknowledged, knowledge of “the incident”. The Daily Princetonian is reporting that the photo of the sex act was circulated via Tiger Inn email list-serve and also that the female participant in the photo was a Freshman. No one is disputing the existence of evidence of possible (even probable) crimes involving unlawful distribution and underage drinking that it would be irresponsible not to investigate. Of course a person or entity can not be convicted of a crime without a court/jury’s finding on facts behind a reasonable doubt, so to get to a conviction of the crime, you may need that “complaintant” to testify in some manner at trial. And, investigation may show that the participants in the photo consented to its distribution and/or that there was no underage drinking, and/or any other crime. But a crime is a crime with or without victim or “complaintant” cooperation, and crimes are appriopriately investigated and people may be arrested without need for an individual’s/victim’s complaint or even cooperation.

    1. “but with evidence of a probable commission of a crime, the law enforcement will lawfully investigate to determine if a crime was committed”

      Where is the evidence?? So somebody saw a photo that they thought showed a sex act at TI? It’s possible that the photo wasn’t even taken at TI. It’s also possible that the photo shows an act of simulation. Lots of things are possible. I don’t see why Princeton’s municipal police force should dedicate resources to following up every bit of campus gossip. If somebody makes a complaint, then yes, but otherwise this is just a lot of to-do over nothing.

      1. I’m a Princeton taxpayer and I support use of Princeton Police resources to follow up by investigating credible “gossip” leads of crimes. Crimes that have anything to do with sex (e.g. sex with minors by school teachers or coaches, “date rape” at fraternities or eating clubs, domestic violence, sexual harassment, etc) rarely first appear on law enforcement radar neatly packaged via complaint or victim statement and often it is “gossip” that inspires further investigation. In this case the incident subject of the “gossip” has been acknowledged by University and eating club officials. If there was a crime committed at or by TI, and if such crime is in the town jurisdiction, then our police department should investigate and not turn a blind eye just because the University might be embarrassed or thinks that state criminal laws don’t apply within their ivy bubble. If law enforcement, after appropriate investigation, can not prove in court that the picture was taken at or by TI, or any other elements of any crime, then no parties will be convicted, but that does not mean that there should have been no investigation.

        1. What makes you say there was no investigation? Have you spoken to the police? What kind of investigation would you like to see? If the police go to PU Public Safety and say, “we’d like to investigate an alleged sexual assault that took place at TI at the weekend”, and Public Safety say “We’re aware of the allegation but have no evidence that anything happened”- what should the police do then??

  2. I thought the memorandum of understanding spelled out how the University and Municipal police would cooperate. There seems to be some confusion. As I recall the Administrator and individual members of Mayor and Council charged with Police matters are to see that supervision of police and implementation of the MOU according to its terms are proper. It seems that those individuals owe the rest of Council and the citizens a report on this obvious kerfuffle. Our “leaders” shouldn’t be dependent on Krystal Knapp and Roger Martindell to initiate inquiry as to what went wrong. Roger always asked the right and sometimes uncomfortable questions that are going unasked by our current representatives. We need Roger back on Council. He, more than anyone, spoke for the silent majority of our town.

  3. Thanks to Roger Martindell for connecting the dots between the recent club events, the
    issue about how University Public Safety and Princeton Police interact on such incidents, and the connection with the federal ruling. I can easily understand how the University, like any other campus with independent fraternities and sororities, would want a big legal “firewall” between them and such organizations. It’s a huge risk management issue, especially should the unthinkable happen.
    I worked at Princeton, in an academic department, for 15 years, retiring last fall. The best part of those years was the wonderful students, who really were receiving a fantastic education. But in any discussion of party-hearty club culture or binge drinking, the students I knew made it clear they had no time for such activities and expressed frustration that the administration didn’t “just say no” when it came to blatant alcohol abuse.

    Instead, the University convened an Alcohol Coalition Committee (not for the first time), charged with “working with students, faculty and administrators to effect cultural and behavioral change to address high-risk drinking on campus.” This group, and various sub-committees met over several months, and the resulting lengthy report (https://www.princeton.edu/campuslife/docs/ACC-Report-2011-12.pdf) seemed to me to reach no real conclusions except that more committees needed to be formed, and various more targeted studies done.

    But one thing that did seem to come out of all that (as expressed to me by one faculty member of the Initiative) was that many students wanted a University-sanctioned bar on
    campus, where they could theoretically learn by seeing “responsible drinking
    modeled.” This idea was pursued for a while (I was on the Prospect House Board at the time, so heard a few brief updates), but, thankfully, it sank into oblivion (at least for now) when a suitable location/hosting entity could not be found. (Can you say “hot potato”?)

    1. I don’t understand your frustration.

      Roger wrote a letter expressing concern that the investigation was only started because Planet Princeton broke the story. The Daily Princetonian story you cite appears to corroborate this. The information seems to support Roger’s point of view.

      1. So much speculation, so little evidence that anything actually happened. No victim, no complaint, no named sources, no proof that said ‘evidence’ even exists. Maybe there was something, but I’m going to hold off until the police finish their inquiry. I certainly wouldn’t be alleging any malfeasance on the part of the University until that point.

        1. “so little evidence that anything actually happened.”

          But the Princeton police admit only learning about the incident and starting their investigation because of the PlanetPrinceton story. That is the evidence that something is wrong as the campus police should have contacted them. Why are you trying so hard to dismiss this incident?

          1. You’ll have to excuse me, but the story is so insubstantial that there is just nothing more worth writing about it. Whenever there’s a photo or an arrest, I’ll pay attention then.

            1. How can there be an arrest if the campus police aren’t relaying the information about the incident to the Princeton police so it can be investigated?

              1. The ‘incident’ was first reported to University authorities on Monday, November 3 at 7.20 p.m. Krystal published her story on Tuesday, November 4 at 2.21 p.m. She presumably spoke to the Princeton police on the morning or early afternoon of November 4, less than 18 hours after the University authorities had first heard that something might be going on. Given the very short timeframe, and the fact that the case is clearly not an emergency, it is hardly surprising that there had not yet been a discussion between campus authorities and Princeton police. I don’t see any evidence of a cover-up whatsoever.

                1. Please don’t make presumptions about how or when we reported things and spread misinformation. Planet Princeton contacted Princeton University, the Princeton Police, and the County Prosecutor’s Office for comment on the allegations on Nov. 3 around 3 p.m. The head of the alum board was also contacted, and he said he was aware of the incident.

                  1. Spreading misinformation? lol. I’m taking it straight from the Princeton U. public safety records. The incident is logged as having been first reported 11/3/14 at 19.20. So now we have a specific and potentially substantial allegation based on first-hand evidence: Krystal is saying that the University’s Clery Act crime log contains a false record of when this case was first reported. Based on this statement, I agree that a response is warranted.

                    1. So, ‘JustSaying’, you can see- there is no indication that any relevant University authority had information about this case before Krystal started phoning around asking about it on Nov 3. The allegation that the University failed to share information with local police is without basis and is thoroughly mischievous. Right now I see no evidence whatsoever of a failure of coordination. I would suggest that there have been no arrests because there is no evidence of a crime and this whole thing is a waste of everybody’s time. I could be wrong. But right now I’m wondering “Where’s the Beef?”. Maybe Krystal knows more that she hasn’t reported yet…?

                    2. Again, I don’t understand why you seem so angry and feel the need to attack the reporter here.

                      As far as I can tell, PlanetPrinceton did its job in terms of investigating a story and reporting on it. Clearly, you don’t like it, but it’s what investigative journalism is about.

                    3. LOL. get the flaming onion, hon – I’m hardly angry, and I’m a PP $ supporter! I’m just asking a simple question: “Where’s the Beef?” There’s an alleged sex crime, but nobody has filed a complaint; an alleged photo, which none of us has even seen; and an alleged cover-up, for which there is no evidence whatsoever. And now Martindell is getting on his soapbox- over what?? I’m sorry to step in front of the hype bandwagon, I know it must feel grand up there, with the music and beating drum, but Where is the Beef? Show me a photo, show me an arrest, show me something. Otherwise, zzzzzzzz. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some undergraduates somewhere laughing their heads off at what a commotion their little prank has caused among the townies. And oh look!- Now people are spraying graffiti over this. Great job everyone.

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